MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Helmut Newton’s life ended abruptly but his legacy lives on.
Solveig Steinhardt visits the Helmut Newton Foundation to better understand the meaning of nudity in prêt-à-porter.
From celebrities to fashion models, the subjects in Helmut Newton’s photography are captured in eroticallycharged poses, often depicted naked or just about to undress. Somewhere between decadence and glamor, voyeurism, and fiction, his shots have been criticized by feminists for objectifying the female. His women, however, never appear as victims – they are more like his powerful and manipulative accomplices.
Born in Berlin to a Jewish family in 1920, Newton made the final decision to flee Nazi Germany after his father’s arrest on Kristallnacht, on 9 November 1938. A passionate photographer since his early teenage years, he spent his first period outside Germany working as a photojournalist in Singapore before being sent to Australia, where he began his career as a fashion photographer. In 1948, he married June Brunell, who would later work on many of his projects and even replace him on some of his Vogue assignments under the pseudonym Alice Springs. The couple moved to Paris, and later to Monaco, and spent long winters in Los Angeles. Throughout this time, Newton maintained a special relationship with his hometown, and in 2003, not long before his fatal car accident on Sunset Boulevard, he donated all his work to the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, which now houses the collection in a Prussian army building next to Berlin’s Zoo Station, where Newton had boarded his train to Trieste back in 1938.
Ten years after the photographer’s death, June Newton has decided to reopen the two exhibitions that inaugurated the Foundation in 2004. Featuring works selected by Helmut Newton himself, Us And Them is a photographic journal of the couple’s life, including intimate and reciprocal self portraits alongside portraits of prominent personalities of the 1980s and 1990s. The second exhibition, Sex And Landscapes, brings together large format landscapes and nude photographs taken between 1974 and 2001, highlighting the contrast between the timelessness of nature and the ephemeral provocation of erotic obsession. Until 16 November, Helmut Newton Collection (p. 48).